Emotions & Resilience

No Reason: The Problem With Asking ‘Why?’

I was browsing some social media groups for business owners this week, when I saw a comment asking how people find their own sense of power when they’re struggling. This is something I feel I can offer support with, so I clicked the comments, and saw two responses essentially stating: “Ask yourself why. Get the root of the problem to solve it.”

The Core Reason

Now, if you know what has triggered, brought up or caused a particular obstacle of difficulty, that can be hugely useful. I would never say that seeking that possible trigger or core reason is unhelpful in the first instance.

However, the human existence isn’t quite that simple, and sometimes, asking ourselves ‘why’ can dig us deeper into the hole of frustration, low mood or stress. In short, sometimes there isn’t a definable reason.

The Effects of Questioning

When we question, or even make a judgement on how we’re thinking, feeling or behaving, we sometimes end up dropping further into that spiral which has a hold on us.

Partly, we feel there should be a reason. Which makes not knowing it very distressing or frustrating. Equally, when we can’t find it, we feel useless or defeated, we feel victimised and perhaps even out of control.

When there is a reason, its good to reflect, to recognise it. However, this reliance on believing there must be a reason can also be unhelpful.

The Alternative Path

We deep thinkers are often caught up in the shoulds, and it’s definitely a hard habit to break. But it can be done. When I’m focused on an emotional state, I complete three steps.

  1. Check you’re not in horrific danger.

This is a grand move for those of us who are prone to pockets of anxiety. I ask myself three questions, to check I’m okay:

  • Am I physically injured? Essentially, do my five senses still work, and am I in pain?
  • Am I breathing? Can I still breathe?
  • Is the earth still under my feet?

If the answers are all yes, then I know I have time to deal with whatever’s going on. If not, I assess the most important next step. But in that case, ignore this advice because it doesn’t apply, and panic away!

  1. Reflect on whether there is a known or recognisable reason for how you’re feeling.

As I said, it doesn’t hurt to ask this question once: sometimes knowing why you feel as you do can take all the pressure to “not feel this way” and can stop us from searching for “a reason.”

  1. Finally, DISTRACT. Seriously. 

If there ISN’T a ‘core reason why’, accepting it and not giving it any more of your precious energy and attention is key.

Distractions may include:

  • dance to happy music
  • do 10 press ups
  • play with a pet
  • draw a silly stick-figure doodle
  • count backwards
  • name five things which are green in your environment

If you don’t have a clear reason, then you won’t gain anything else in continuing to focus on the unhelpful feeling.

~

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Creative Tools

On Soothing Imposter Worries

Psst! At the end of this post is a link to my free worksheets on managing those imposter syndrome fears, so you can make progress on your personal quest.

As human beings, we worry. Our minds focus on the problems we might be faced with, and try desperately to do fix those problems before they arise: we plan for conflict, or confusion. We question what we’re doing, and if it’s okay to be doing it. Especially when thinking about starting or transforming our lives or business.

That voice creeps in, sometimes amidst the excitement of expansion, other times it lurks in the back of your mind as you stare up at the ceiling.

We ask ourselves “What do I have to offer?” or “Why would anyone trust me? Can I really deliver what I promise? What if they don’t like my work, or feel cheated?”

Fears of not being good enough, or feeling like an ‘imposter’ can change our behaviour: either our self-talk or the way we behave. This often results in downplaying what we do, and missing out on opportunities.

Often people worry about not living up to a set expectation, fearing they actually can’t do what they’ve said they can, or just don’t know what to expect of a change.

But these thoughts are just that: thoughts.

And our thoughts are not facts.

Honest.

And not only that, but we actually have some level of control over how we think and what we say to ourselves or other people. Let’s get started:

  1. What are you afraid of? Really define the worry that is holding that fear hostage. When we know the specific concern, it’s much easier to really question it, and make a balanced judgement.
  2. Is this worry ‘real’? Ask yourself if there is some truth behind the concern. Have you let people down before, or received negative feedback that you haven’t analysed and made changes based on? What evidence is there behind the thoughts?
  3. Is there another side? Our thoughts do come from something, so it’s likely you found some evidence for that concern — but we often forget to look at the whole picture. What evidence do you have against the concern? Have you ever completed a task or created something that you didn’t feel ‘qualified’ for, and it didn’t go entirely wrong?
  4. If this worry came true, how bad would it be? Often the worries we have are quite out of proportion to the ‘realistic’ outcome. If the event were to go badly, or someone didn’t like it, would it really be as bad as you think?
  5. Balance it out. Use the evidence you’ve found to balance out the worry. “Although I may not be an expert, I can definitely help my client improve in this skill, which is all they are asking for.”

Our imposter worries come from a place of self-preservation – we want to be liked, which is especially useful in business. We want our clients to be happy with our work to buy from us again!

Therefore, it’s good to remember that these concerns aren’t ‘bad thoughts trying to harm us’ but actually a tiny worried voice that just needs some reassurance.

~

Want to download the free worksheets on actually working through these Imposter Worries? Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. Youll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up for the Managing Imposter Worries Worksheets! 
This post was originally published on Her HustleIt’s been refreshed and re-shared here for your enjoyment, with a link to it’s new companion worksheet.

Happiness in nature: log pile
Empowerment & Seeking

Happiness: The Truth about Self-help Tools

I began studying the psychology of my own experiences in 2004 with a book on Psycholinguistics and one on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Since then, I’ve studied a bunch of qualifications, and have worked in social care, education, mental health and youth work fields.

Yet, there are some ‘lessons’ you don’t fully comprehend until you’ve lived them.

A few years ago, Christine Kane wrote an article about smiling after challenge, and a particular comment she made really stood out for me:

“That’s because when it comes right down to it, happiness is a lot about training.”

I sat and stared at that sentence. Happiness is about Training your Mind. That kind of rings true… and of course, it’s the whole point of my work, in a way. I want to share all that I know about training the mind to be healthy, happy and effective at learning, feeling and being.

Beyond all my talk about empowerment and inner strength, all my motivation for being a mentor to help people feel equipped for their personal quest: happiness is probably the most common desire in all of us.

The Personal Training Effect

Across the last 15 years or so, I’ve focused on any practise that may allow me to reach that potential, to complete my own personal quest.

I have all this knowledge about meditation, gratitude, visualisation, learning, associations, triggers, challenging our thoughts, and re-defining. But in reality, they’re all tools for experiencing happiness in the moment.

We’re all seeking happiness as someone hiring a personal trainer seeks health and wellbeing. And much like those sessions, it may take a few difficult tasks, pushing against our limits and trial and error to find the workout that gives us the desired results.

The Horizon Never Moves Closer

Similarly, goals generally require us to try various tools and methods, to fail until we learn enough to succeed.

Because really, growing in skills, ability and experience is what makes us human. Personal growth, in my view, means we’re really living.

Christine also reminds us in that article that we’re “…never going to ARRIVE at the horizon. That line where earth and sky meet will always be out in front of you.”

Which is amazing, really. In some ways, the true reach of human potential really is infinite.

It’s something I never remember, especially when I’m feeling bad and can’t explain why. It’s something I know, but can’t access the knowledge of. These little steps are the easiest, and perhaps most effective… But it’s important not to focus on the horizon, just focus on where you want to put your feet next.

If you feel lost in your path to complete a personal quest, grab some free tools to help you blaze the trail.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Emotions & Resilience

Understanding Emotions :: Conversations with Fear

Fear. We all experience it.

But we often don’t recognise it for what it is.

Many coaches talk about the unhelpful responses in different ways: they may be defined as “limiting beliefs”, “unhelpful automatic thoughts”, the “gremlins”, the “inner critic”, your “mean-girl voice” or even “monsters.”

However, at the end of the day, we all experience this voice; and it’s often hard to know how to handle it. I call mine Kitten.

Katy with A Fearful Kitten

What The Voice Does

  • The voice stops us.
  • It makes us feel low, causes us doubt and worry.
  • It criticises us and finds fault in what we’re doing.
  • We begin to feel de-motivated.
  • Our progress on our tasks slow.
  • Often, we slow down. We stop pursuing that dream, or we take a rest from that job.

But in doing this, it’s doing something very innate. Very instinctive. It’s powering those emotions for a reason.

Your brain is trying to protect you.

“Your monster is small and vulnerable and fuzzy. And it just wants to know that you’ll be okay. And that’s why it makes itself so big and fierce — to scare you into letting it take care of you” (Havi Brooks, 2010.)

What The Voice Wants

It wants to keep you safe.

Honestly, if you really dig down and ask where that voice came from, you’ll find one thing at it’s base: FEAR.

What If…

  • I fail, like running out of money?
  • I end up alone?
  • I’m embarrassed?
  • I can’t make it work?
  • I don’t survive?
  • Everyone else is right and I can’t do this?
  • I never recover?
  • I lose all my reputation?

This is the hind-brain: the reptilian part of us which is trained to perceive threat and plan the possible ways to stay alive, safe and uninjured.

The lizard brain does not know that the worry, the anxiety, the concerns are about your social reputation in a public speaking event.For all the instinctive brain knows, you’re hidden in a bush from a hungry tiger out to eat you.

Your voice is trying to help you: to problem solve all the possible options: including perceiving those threats so you can make an informed decision.

This understanding doesn’t change the emotion, but it can inform how we respond to those moments.

How You Can Manage Unhelpful and Fearful Thoughts

  1. The first thing I did, was stop being upset with it. I call mine Kitten, to remind me of the vulnerable, frightened voice it really is.
    • This isn’t a Mean Girl trying to bully you because you’re a failure. It’s a tiny kitten saying: “Are you sure you’ll be okay? I’m worried.”
  2. The second thing is to uncover the fear. Have that internal conversation to really explore what the worry is about.
  3. Now you know the worry, you can find the appropriate response.
    • Is the worry true? Is it likely to happen? If so, how would you handle it?
  4. And, although a little ‘woo,’ I find it helpful to visualise an actual kitten, because it just takes away some of the power in how I perceive this negative voice.
    • It doesn’t hurt to be grateful for the information your brain has told you because it worries you’ve not made a plan and thus might panic in the moment.
    • Reassure your voice that you’ve got this -> You’ve made a note of the concern, here is the action plan and it can go back to sleep now.

How do you manage those unhelpful thoughts and worries?

If you’d like some support to manage your inner kitten, sign up for the email list or apply for mentorship sessions.

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Mapping Out Small, Daily Steps: Pt 1

We dream of things being different, and it’s frustrating to feel so far away from that possible future. When our daily steps don’t match our values. Anything which blocks our sense of progress towards our best self, feels stressful and overwhelming. Be that a known obstacle to a goal, or not knowing how exactly to reach a life where we are more fulfilled.

We all have changes we want to make, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of ways to set ‘smart’ goals, choose focus ‘words’, organise our time or work on visualisation to walk the path towards that potential.

Before we start thinking about changes, let’s spend a few moments thinking about how we define our situation.

What Changes To Make?

So often, when asked about goal-setting or making changes to how we feel, think, or behave, we focus on an end-result, an accomplishment of some description. We think about ‘reaching the end,’ and often this image has a sense of being effortless.

However, thinking about how we define our current state, we’re likely thinking about the last few days or weeks. What we did each day, how much energy we lacked, or how many things we didn’t get done.

We judge our present based on the day-to-day experience. What steps did you take today, towards that final goal?

What we want isn’t always some ‘outcome’ but actually for our days in the future to just feel lighter; for the experience of living to be that bit better.

So in reality, to make changes to that daily feeling, we need to look at our day’s current structure.

A Daily Steps Check-list

  1. Did anything today give you a sense of progress towards your best self? List any actions or events which brought you to life, got your passions going or at least brought about relief at being accomplished. Even those tiny daily steps count.
  2. What zapped your energy today? Think about the activities you did or the thoughts you focused on which left you feeling drained, panicked or overwhelmed. List them out separately, and if there are any you can remove: do so! You may need to think about if you could do them less often, or if you could swap these tasks with another person. We’ll come back to this list later.
  3. Focus on values. What sense would you like in future days? Would you choose a sense of motivation, perhaps more energy to complete tasks or just feeling free to breathe in between various tasks? Think about the values of the activities you listed for question 1, and see if any themes come up.
  4. Think about pace. Although some things may be out of our control, when trying to fit everything in, we can sometimes make decisions that squeeze us for time, or that we know aren’t going to serve us well one those days. Think about the pace of each day when making plans, especially if you’re able to ‘tone down’ some activities. For example, coffee with a friend may take too much time with travel, but when you decline, offer a 30-minute phone call to catch up as an alternative plan.
  5. Shape your future days. How would the day look, if you had more energy, more freedom or were making regular progress? Schedule an ‘ideal’ day like a diary, and notice if any of those aspects could sneak their way into your current days. For example, if an ideal day begins with 15 minutes of meditation, can you put a 1-minute mindfulness practice into place tomorrow morning?

In order to change our future, we need to look at how we live each day.

In part two, we’ll focus on incorporating small, achievable routines to bring about grand change.

*~*

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New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Perception: On Re-Framing Your Experiences

On Friday afternoon, following a particularly stressful day working for a mental health project, I found myself burning out. I wasn’t angry, nor particularly sad, but I felt under pressure and desperate to get home: emotionally exhausted.

About 3 minutes from home, at a roundabout where people often go despite the traffic coming their way, a car pulled out in front of me. I had to break suddenly, my fight-or-flight system throwing adrenaline around my body so I could react quickly.

I felt shocked and instantly angry. My heart raced, my hands tensed around the wheel. My thoughts flooded in: “How selfish, they could have killed us both! Why can’t people LOOK when they drive? Some people shouldn’t have driving licenses.”

My usual response would be to lift up my hand in a “what was that?” questioning motion. I’m not someone who uses the ‘traditional’ symbols: I just open my palm to the sky in my exasperation. Then I rein in those thoughts and pull back from the offending car: “I better be careful, this driver is likely to do something else dangerous.”

But this time, as the driver pulled off at my junction, they put their hand up to the rear-view mirror (the universal thanks/sorry movement), and I saw the green P-plate.

Re-framing, or the Paradigm Shift

Instantly, my anger dissipated. I didn’t have to reign those thoughts in; they just weren’t there anymore.

I put my own hand up to the my mirror, hoping they’d see it as “no problem” and left a big gap because I remember feeling that everyone was so close while I was learning to drive. In fact, I kept the P-plate on my car for well over the recommended two years. 

In terms of Friday’s event, nothing actually changed: I nearly had a car crash. I was scared for my safety. I got angry. The driver having a P-plate didn’t miraculously mean I was safer.

So why did those thoughts and feelings dissipate; if nothing physically changed? I’d re-framed the experience.

When I was growing up, I read a book entitled “NLP for Dummies.” I didn’t remember a lot about NLP as I grew older, except one example about re-framing experience (which a google search cites as being from Stephen Covey):

Some children are disturbing a train carriage of people.
The father appears to be ignoring them.

The author asks the man if he could control his children.
He expresses the frustration/exasperation/anger of people being disturbed, interpreting this man to be insensitive and irresponsible.

But the moment the father shared that the children’s mother had died an hour before:
the entire emotional experience shifted from anger to compassion.

Again, nothing physically changed. The children continued to be loud and disruptive.

The thoughts changed. The characters focused on re-framing the event. The interpretation, the labels of how that father should behave, changed.

I don’t normally experience road rage. I have conditioned myself to ask “what if?” or “why would I do that?”

Someone cut me up in traffic, or drives through a red light?

Yes, those first thoughts come up: How dangerous, are they insane; they’re putting everyone at risk.

And then I step back: re-framing the experience. “What could be happening, to make that okay in their eyes?”

Perhaps their mother is dying and they’re rushing to hospital to get those last 5 minutes to say goodbye.

The likelihood of that being true for EVERY bad driving event is pretty much nil. But, the only person actually hurting from my road rage, is me. And if I choose to believe that every ‘bad driver’ has a decent reason, I don’t sit there seething, keeping those uncomfortable, fearful thoughts going. I send out a wave of compassion, and get on with my day.

We can change how we think about events.

It’s not easy, and it takes a lot of time. But it’s possible.

For me, the gains are worth the effort.

 

P.S. If you want some support to help change those thoughts and break those negative cycles, find out more about my coaching sessions here.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!